Rainfall this week in DFW could head off water restrictions, officials say

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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With cooler temperatures and a solid chance of rain in the forecast for the next several days, North Texans may avoid having their outdoor watering restricted to once a week, officials said Tuesday.

“Every forecast is pointing toward improvement.” said David Marshall, Tarrant Regional Water District engineering services director.

Officials at the water district, which provides water for more than 2 million residents, say that area reservoir levels are at 64 percent — treacherously close to the 60 percent level that would trigger automatic Stage 2 watering restrictions.

However, Marshall, who closely tracks rainfall forecast models, says the chance of rain is so good over the next three to four days that he’s not overly worried about the region moving to Stage 2.

The forecast calls for isolated showers and highs in the 90s Wednesday and Thursday, but a cold front moving in with a 60 percent chance of showers in the Fort Worth area Friday. The high on Friday is expected to hover around 82 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

And not only that, Marshall said that longer-term the models show a strong chance of mild, wet weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and surrounding region September through December — just what may be needed to make a dent in the drought conditions that have persisted for about 18 months.

“Six to nine inches is needed to moisturize the soil,” Marshall told water district board members during a regular meeting Tuesday. “I’d like to see cooler temperatures just like everybody else, and it’s just around the corner if you look at the forecasts.”

Board member Jim Lane jokingly asked Marshall, “Is that a guarantee?”

Marshall stopped short of promising a drenching. But he did say, “In all our basins, you should see improvement.”

Earlier this month, water district officials warned that rules restricting outdoor watering to once a week could be enacted as soon as October, if the region didn’t get some substantial rainfall soon.

Lake Bridgeport is enduring the worst of the drought, among the seven reservoirs that are part of the water district system. On Tuesday, Lake Bridgeport was 20 feet below normal. Benbrook Lake was 8.48 feet below normal, and Lake Arlington was 6.84 under its normal level.

Fort Worth officials, who sell water to 30 area cities, also have said they’re still hopeful they can avoid Stage 2.

But even as cooler temperatures are on the horizon, and North Texans can likely rest easily knowing they probably won’t have to stop watering their lawns, the region won’t be able to dig all the way out of its drought anytime soon, a National Weather Service official said.

“Unfortunately, it really doesn’t look like that much,” said Daniel Huckaby, a weather service meteorologist. “The problem is, it has been so dry that a lot of that rainfall is just going to soak into the ground. It’s going to take awhile to make a dent in our reservoirs. But as we get later into the year, with each subsequent rain event we should improve.”

For now, Friday is the best chance for a region-wide soaking, he said.

“We’re getting a lot of good, tropical moisture in play,” he said. “The ridge of high pressure that dominates our weather, this time of year it begins to move outward, and the west-to-east winds can start.”

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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